It’s very easy to injure your knees. A twist here, a snap there, and before you know it you’ve blown your meniscus. Walking becomes a pain, your mobility is severely decreased, and your knee swells up to the size of a softball and hurts like one to the head.
For older folks, surgery was an easy option: it relieves the pain and reconstructs the knee so it is useful again. Sometimes the injury isn’t as bad as a torn meniscus, sometimes it’s even worse, and usually surgery isn’t the smartest option.
The Cost Of Surgery
Surgery is expensive, and knee surgery for seniors is starting to be seen as unnecessary. Unless this elderly person is playing basketball or snowboarding, the use of their knees is usually fairly limited. Of course, you don’t want your knees to get in the way of a happy, healthy lifestyle.
“We found you improve regardless of if you have surgery or nonsurgical treatment,” said one of the researchers, Ewa Roos, a professor in the department of sports science and clinical biomechanics at the University of Southern Denmark.
Researchers studied multiple cases and came to the conclusion that knee surgery to relieve pain associated with arthritis or a torn meniscus is totally unnecessary for older patients. In fact, despite the relief the knee will actually be in worse shape than before.
The Bee’s Knees
Dr. David Teuscher, president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, agrees that there is no benefit to surgery for this type of knee pain. In fact, doctors in the U.S. no longer use this procedure to relieve knee pain.
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“We did the research on this about 15 years ago and realized that arthroscopic surgery for osteoarthritis does not have a long-term therapeutic benefit,” Teuscher said.
On Wounded Knee
Seven years ago I tore my ACL, MCL, and meniscus in my right knee. It was a skiing accident and besides being extremely painful and putting me in bed for a week, it also took me off the slopes. Surgery, we thought, was the answer.
It turns out the surgeon didn’t. He thought the knee would heal itself. By the time I got in to see the surgeon, I had been walking so much and strengthening my knee with lightweight exercises and physiotherapy that he said the knee was strong enough without surgery. I was 22 and planned on skiing again (I can now), which is different than most senior patients, who don’t need full strength and mobility based on a less physically active lifestyle.
4 Common Ways To Treat Knee Pain
- Exercise: This is most doctors’ highest recommended option for knee pain. Find a recumbent exercise bike, or an exercise that is less stressful for knees (i.e. not jogging). Swimming and bicycling are good options.
- RICE: Not a food, but an acronym RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
Rest: this means to let your knee rest after an injury, but also to rest your feet on the ground while sitting. Never leave your knee dangling to support the weight of the rest of your leg.
Ice: this takes the swelling down, which relieves pressure and pain.
Compression: a compressive bandage can be a quick cure for knee pain associated with fluid buildup or misaligned muscles.
Elevation: elevate your feet to keep fluid from building up in the knee. Remember to support the injured knee with pillows.
- Knee Pad: Using a pad or pillow between your knees means you won’t be adding undue stress and pressure to your knees. This won’t relieve the pain, but the inflammation and pain will subside in time. This is mostly recommended at bedtime.
- Quit Smoking: Smoking causes inflammation and slows down the healing process. If you can’t quit entirely, even cutting back will help tremendously.
4 Not-So-Common Knee Pain Remedies
- Massage: Use warm coconut oil, olive oil, or mustard oil and gently massage the knee. The warmth of the oil and the gentle massage soothes and relieves the pain.
- Omega 3s: Flax seeds and walnuts – rich in omega 3 fatty acids – reduce swelling. Also, try fish, eggs, or avocado.
- Plaster: Make a paste out of wheat flour, turmeric powder, castor oil, and goat’s milk. Apply before bed and wrap the knee with a clean cloth. Wash in the morning and repeat every night for a week. This paste will naturally reduce pain and swelling.
- Tamarind Leaves: Boil some tamarind leaves and place them on your injured knee. Lightly wrap a cloth over them, to keep in place overnight. This remedy is especially beneficial for those who experience knee pain during night.
There you have it: knee surgery is not always the best option, especially for older patients suffering from knee pain (even from arthritis). A doctor will help you decide whether surgery is the best option, because sometimes a total knee replacement is the right (or only) option.
What Do You (K)need?
But arthroscopic knee surgery is becoming less-and-less recommended – so choose one of these easy, at-home remedies for your knee pain. So you can be walking, biking – or even skiing again soon.
ps: I never had the surgery but I can ski with a small brace now. I stay away from squats, but I’m able to lift boxes when moving and, more importantly, go skiing every now and then.
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